Conceptual topics overview
Up until this point, we’ve mostly been focusing on the reference aspects of API documentation (the endpoints). The reference documentation is only one aspect of API documentation.
In this section, I’ll cover the main conceptual topics that are commonly found in API documentation. Rather than “conceptual topics,” you might consider this type of information the “user guide.”
The following are common conceptual topics commonly found in API documentation:
- API product overview
- Getting started
- Authentication and authorization requirements
- Status and error codes
- Rate limiting and thresholds
- Quick reference guide
- API glossary
- API best practices
Beyond the sections outlined above, you might want to include other tasks and tutorials specific to your API, based on what you expect your users to do and the business scenarios for which they’ll use your API.
In each concept topic, I’ll provide general descriptions and overviews of what these sections contain, followed by examples from actual API documentation sites.
With each topic, there’s an activity for you to go into your open-source project and evaluate the conceptual topic at hand. Although many of the conceptual topics are straightforward, when you look at the information in context, that is, when you look to see how the information is actually implemented, it gets a lot more interesting.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation if you're looking for more info about that. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.
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